Getting some control back….

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Recently I noticed that I wasn’t making a dent on my task list and it was almost 5pm before I even looked at it. So one week I decided to log my time and see what the ‘eck was going on. What I found out was eye opening – on average I receive around 200 emails a day, I spend about 1 to 2 minutes reading and responding, which totals to more than 4 hours in a day dealing with queries. Add in the number of meetings I have on a daily basis and ‘poof’ my day has disappeared and I spend a few hours extra every night trying to catch up.

I decided that I needed to take some action and claw some of my time back so I introduced some key changes, none of them are revolutionary but they have definitely revolutionised the way I work:

  • Check emails twice a day – I used to have my emails on in the background and have alerts popping up every time I received a message, which was a constant distraction. I switched the alerts off and now only try and check my inbox twice a day. Once in the morning to scan the emails from the night before to make sure I’ve not missed anything important (I give myself 30 mins to do this). Then I spend an hour or so in the evening responding or making notes on the ones I need to get back to using one of the methods below.
  • Ring people back rather than drafting a note – These days many of us are so gung-ho about getting ‘proof’ that you’ve dealt with something that trust has gone out of the window. Honestly, pick up the phone and just have a chat, it’s much quicker and they will definitely appreciate it. If you do want to have ‘evidence’ that you’ve answered their query then there is nothing wrong with dropping them a quick note at the end of the day just to summarise the conversation, if it’s needed.
  • Use Instant Messenger (if you have it) – we have the oldest email system in the world (okay slight exaggeration but it is old) however the great thing about it is our instant message facility. This little gem allows you to message someone really quickly and receive a response within minutes. However, be warned that this can be a distraction as well so if you do have lots do turn on the ‘do not disturb’ sign.
  • Move and go to see people – not only will this give you some exercise but seeing someone face-to-face can really help build better relationships. However, even though most people are generally quite happy for you to pop along unannounced it might be worth just giving them a quick call to see if they have a few minutes for a chat before you turn up. Seeing people is still a new phenomenon for some, so they may be surprised to see an actual human appear next to them without prior warning.
  • Pushing back and saying no – this one was the toughest of them all and to be honest I’m still working on this, though I am getting better. I try and cc the person I know could help (this is where my fountain of knowledge comes in handy) or I try and explain, normally face-to-face, that it really isn’t the IC departments remit to deal with that query. This can be uncomfortable, particularly if you’re a people pleaser like me but in order to bring some control back in your life it needs to be done.

These little tips have been somewhat life changing for me – I’m not saying it’s perfect and I’m skipping out of the office on time every night but it’s given me a sense of control back, so surely that can’t be a bad thing.

What are your top tips in managing your time? Do you have a secret tip?

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